The capital of the United States is full of historic buildings. It was named for the first President of the United States, George Washington (1732-1799), and is home to the most important structures in the country.
Constructed on the banks of the Potomac River and centered around the Capitol Building, the city was established with the signing of the Resident Act in 1790.
The city was originally designed by French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant (1754-1825) and the general outline of the city still follows this plan. Today, the metropolitan area of DC is home to approximately 6.3 million inhabitants.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous buildings in Washington DC, landmarks that define the capital of the United States.
1. National Mall
The National Mall is a large landscaped park located in the middle of the area that contains many of the most important buildings and monuments in the United States.
It borders multiple museums and memorials as well as cultural institutions, art galleries, and multiple sculptures and statues.
The park is located near the downtown area of Washington D.C. and is administered by the National Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior.
It’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country as well over 20 million people visit it each year and is world-famous for its reflecting pool.
Official website: National Mall
2. Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is arguably one of the most iconic monuments in Washington D.C.
This obelisk is located right in the middle of the National Mall area (if we consider the broad range) and has been built to commemorate George Washington, the first president of the United States.
This monument stands 555 feet (169 meters) tall and was the tallest structure in the world upon completion in the year 1884 until it was surpassed by another iconic monument, the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
It has since become one of the best-recognized structures in Washington D.C. and a symbol of the United States.
Official website: Washington Monument
3. United States Capitol
The United States Capitol, also sometimes referred to as the “Capitol Building, is one of the most important buildings in the United States.
It’s located on Capitol Hill and borders the eastern end of the National Mall. The original building was constructed in the year 1800 but destroyed by fire in 1814 and rebuilt completely 5 years later.
The Capitol Building was built in a neoclassical architectural style with an astounding dome and houses the United States Congress. It is also the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government.
The House of Representatives is located in the south wing and the Senate in the north wing. The building is iconic because it features an amazing dome.
Official website: US Capitol
4. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial was constructed to commemorate the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
It’s located on the opposite end of the National Mall at its western end. directly across the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol. The memorial was constructed between 1914 and 1922.
The building has the appearance of a neoclassical temple with Greek Doric columns at its edges.
Inside it houses a massive statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting down in a contemplating position, along with several of Lincoln’s speeches written on the walls.
It has been the scene of multiple famous speeches in history, including that of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
Official website: Lincoln Memorial
5. Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial is another monument constructed to commemorate an American president, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the country
He was one of the founding fathers of the United States and the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence.
The building was constructed in the typical neoclassical style and was completed between 1939 and 1943.
It’s located right on the shore of the Potomac River in an area referred to as “West Potomac Park.”
This magnificent structure has been compared to the Pantheon, one of the famous landmarks in Rome, and houses a large bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson.
Official website: Jefferson Memorial
6. Smithsonian Institution Building
The Smithsonian Institution was established on August 10, 1846, and just 1 year afterward the construction of its headquarters began.
The Smithsonian was named after James Smithson, an English scientist who had bequeathed USD 500,000 for the construction of a building that is now referred to as “The Castle.”
It’s located right in between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument at the National Mall and houses the headquarters of an institution
The Smithsonian manages an amazing 19 museums, 21 libraries, 9 research centers, and a zoo and holds an astounding 154 million items.
It welcomes nearly 30 million yearly visitors and has a budget of USD 1.2 billion! The Smithsonian Castle is the oldest building at the National Mall as well.
Official website: Smithsonian Institution Building
7. FDR Memorial
The FDR Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, better known by his initials FDR.
Even though there was already a memorial dedicated to him based on the description he gave himself, the humble monument wasn’t deemed sufficient to honor a man who is considered to be one of the best presidents in U.S. history.
The memorial is located along the southwest shore of the Tidal Basin near the National Mall, just west of the Jefferson Memorial.
It covers an area of 7.5 acres (3 hectares) and was designed as 4 large outdoor rooms which are decorated with sculptures about events during each of the 4 terms of FDR’s presidency.
He was in office from 1933 until his death in 1945 which means he was president during both the Great Depression and World War II, making his memorial one of the most famous attractions in Washington D.C.
Official website: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
8. Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War Veterans Memorial is located just to the southeast of the Lincoln Memorial on the western edge of the National Mall, and just south of the western tip of the famous reflecting pool.
It was constructed between 1992 and 1995 after being approved back in 1986 and was dedicated on July 27, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
The most prominent features of the Memorial are the statues of 19 soldiers which represent a platoon (military unit) on patrol
It also features a black granite wall with a length of 164 feet (50 meters) that depicts over 2,500 archived photographs with images of the Korean War.
The black granite to build this wall was imported from California.
All elements of the Memorial are centered around a relatively small pool called the “Pool of Remembrance” which has a diameter of 30 feet (9 meters). Here you can find plaques and engravings related to this tragic event in human history.
Official website: Korean War Veterans Memorial
9. WW2 Memorial
The WW2 Memorial is a Memorial commemorating the American soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during one of the most tragic events in human history.
The initial idea came about in 1987 but it wasn’t until the year 1993 that a bill was finally passed and money was raised to construct a Memorial in honor of the brave people who fought evil and saved freedom, making it one of the most famous landmarks in Washington D.C.
This Memorial is located in the National Mall on the eastern end of the reflecting pool, and right in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
It consists of a pool and 56 pillars that represent the U.S. states, the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
2 triumphal arches represent the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Freedom Wall contains 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who lost their lives in the war.
Official website: WWII Memorial
10. White House
The White House is probably the most famous and iconic in the world as it serves as the official residence of the president of the United States.
It’s located in an area referred to as “President’s Park” which is situated just north of the National Mall and just south of Downtown Washington D.C.
This park covers an area of 77.48 acres (313,536 square meters) and was part of the original plan for the capital of the United States which was drawn up in 1791.
The original house on this location was constructed between 1792 and 1800 and John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States was the first president to live here.
The building was pretty much destroyed during the War of 1812 and rebuilt shortly after. Many additions have been made since then, the final one being a complete renovation during the early 1950s.
The White House can be visited by the public on scheduled tours which come on a first-come-first-served basis.
Official website: The White House